For Adventurers Anonymous’ first official month, I wanted to honor one one of pop culture’s biggest heroes.
Around the world, people immediately recognize the Superman “S.” His films, comics and especially his theme song have become iconic staples in pop culture. Though he stands for “Truth, Justice and the American Way,” Superman has has evolved into an international icon.
As a die-hard Superman fan, I’ve spent most of my fandom having to justify why Superman is one of my favorite all-time heroes. Many say that Superman is completely unrelatable, simply because he is too powerful. Those people usually argue that Batman is a much more relatable character because he’s simply a human that has pushed himself to an extraordinary position. I would like to point out that, while Batman may be human, he is also a billionaire ninja with a butler. He also can manage to sleep all day and not face any consequences whatsoever. If you can relate to that in any way, know that I am incredibly envious. Despite the fact that Batman is one of my favorite characters, Superman is perhaps the most human of the DC Comics roster.
Superman is the sole survivor of the dying world, Krypton. As the world was in its last moments, Jor-El and Lara sent their son Kal-El, later to be known as Superman, on the last rocket of Krypton to deliver him to safety. After crash-landing on Earth, the infant was discovered by a kindly couple in Kansas, Jonathan and Martha Kent, and they adopted the baby and named him Clark Kent. The Kents were unaware of Clark’s destiny to become one of Earth’s greatest heroes, but the humble beginnings that they provided Clark shaped him into the Superman we know and love. As a character, Superman is defined by his unwavering moral code, humility, and gentleness. These qualities were instilled in him by his adoptive Earth parents, and despite being one of the world’s most powerful heroes, he is consistently grounded by his small town roots.
The story of Superman is known by many, and his origin includes ties to the Biblical book of Exodus. In case you are unfamiliar with the story of Moses, Pharaoh ordered that all Hebrew male children be slaughtered. To save her son, a woman places her baby in a basket and sent him down the river, where he would later be discovered by the Pharaoh’s daughter and be adopted. This child would be called Moses. Moses would eventually become one of The Bible’s greatest heroes, and would help deliver the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. For those of us familiar with Superman’s story, we see very similar story beats in the origin of Clark Kent.
Despite his most recent and more broody iteration in Zack Snyder’s Batman vs. Superman; Superman is generally regarded as an optimistic character defined by his dedication to doing the right thing. While he is not infallible, he is the hero that others look to when leadership is needed. He continually stands as the example of what humanity should strive towards. His ability to fight Earth-threatening villains, and then return to his home of Metropolis and inspire and encourage its citizens are part of what make Superman so endearing. No problem is too great, and no person is unimportant.
Superman’s powers are diverse, and depending on the medium that you focus on, he has had some ridiculous powers that have been attributed to him. In the original 1980s films, he performs feats such as: flying around the world fast enough to travel backward in time, kissing people to wipe their memories, or taking the “S” off his chest and using it as a weapon. Abilities like these are, thankfully, not considered part of Superman’s normal power set.
Superman’s power is received using Solar Energy Absorption. In the DC Universe, all Kryptonians develop Superman’s powers under a yellow sun. The solar energy grants Superman abilities such as Super Strength, Flight, Ice Breath, Heat Vision, X-Ray Vision, Invulnerability, Super Hearing, and the ability to fool a team of investigative reporters with a pair of glasses.
While possessing great power, Superman also possesses a few weaknesses. Most famous is his weakness to Kryptonite, which is a radioactive fragment of his home planet Krypton.
Superman is also weak against magic, so despite his powers, he probably would not do well in a Harry Potter/DC crossover.
Another popular weakness is Red Sun Radiation. It’s established that Superman gains his powers from Yellow Sun Energy, but Red Solar Energy has the opposite affect, effectively draining his power.
While Superman comics debuted in 1938, he also starred in his own popular radio program, The Adventures of Superman in 1940. In 1946, the radio show pitted Superman against the Ku Klux Klan. By having an informant inside of the Klan’s meetings, the writers of the show were able to use KKK code-words and rituals, which the radio show utilized in the episode The Clan of the Fiery Cross. Having Superman make easy work of the clan in this series of episodes, the KKK soon became a laughing stock across the nation. While many superheroes have inspired people in a more abstract way, Superman was used to help stand against a very real issue.
In fact, even before the Civil Rights movement, Superman has stood as a symbol against bigotry and racism. In this poster from 1949, you can see Superman lecturing students on how bullying based on race, religion or nationality is Un-American. Quite progressive for 1949, but that’s what Superman has always represented.
All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison: Perhaps one of the all-time greatest Superman stories ever produced, All-Star Superman deals with the legacy of Superman and hones in on who Superman is, not just as a hero, but as a person and a legend. Full of the greatest Superman moments of all-time, I dare someone who thinks they aren’t a Superman fan to pick this up and not have their opinion swayed.
Superman: Birthright by Mark Waid: An excellent hopping on point for new readers, Superman:Birthright is an excellent re-adaptation of Superman’s origin story. Running for 12-issues, new and old comic book fans alike can enjoy this condensed retelling of The Man of Steel.
Superman: Earth One by J. Michael Strazynski: Set in its own continuity, Superman: Earth One serves as a modern reboot of Superman. Featuring a younger, more inexperienced version of Clark Kent, Earth One allows Superman to grow without the constraints of the established and decades old DC Comics universe.
Action Comics #775: “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way?” by Joe Kelly: An excellent, single issue of Action Comics, this story inspired the animated film: Superman vs. The Elite. If you can’t get your hands on the comic, I would highly recommend the animated adaptation. The story focuses on Superman’s moral code and the effectiveness of being “The Big Blue Boy Scout.”